Women of the World Wednesday: Belle Miriam Silverman (1929-2007) was born blowing a bubble in her mouth. The doctor called her “Bubbles,” and the nickname stuck. Beverly Sills, as she was later called, began singing professionally on the radio at the young age of 3. She performed until she was 12, and then took a break to attend Professional Children’s School in New York, where she graduated in 1945.
Beverly performed her first opera with the Philadelphia Civic Opera in 1947, as Frasquita in Bizet’s Carmen. She toured with the Charles Wagner Opera Company in the early 1950s, and went on to sign with New York City Opera in 1955, first performing as Roslindale in Die Fledermaus.
In 1956 Beverly married Peter B. Greenborough, the associate editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. She became a stepmother to his three children. The couple also had a son and a daughter of their own children. Both children were diagnosed with serious health complications, and Beverly took a break from the stage to care for her children. In addition to her singing career, she went on to devote herself to charities such as the March of Dimes, and she was the national chairperson for that organization’s “Mother’s March” on Birth Defects.
Beverly was known for her ability to embody the roles she played as an opera singer. Julius Rudel, the New York City Opera director, kept this in mind when he successfully convinced her to return to the stage. In 1966, in a rival opening night performance with the Metropolitan Opera Company, Beverly succeeded brilliantly as Cleopatra in Julius Caesar.
It was in 1968 that Beverly gave the performance for which she is probably most well-known, appearing as the title role in Massenet’s Manon, one of her signature roles.
Beverly Sills continued to perform throughout the 70s, and announced her retirement during a televised concert. She went on to hold administrative roles at the Met, Lincoln Center, and the City Opera. President Jimmy Carter awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980.
Source: Healy, John David. “Beverly Sills.” Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Thematic Series: Sports Figures. Ed. Arnold Markoe and Kenneth T. Jackson. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003. Biography in Context. Web. 2 July 2014.
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Daniel A.P. Murray Pamphlets Collection.